David Bianculli

David Bianculli is a guest host and TV critic on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. A contributor to the show since its inception, he has been a TV critic since 1975.

From 1993 to 2007, Bianculli was a TV critic for the New York Daily News.

Bianculli has written three books: Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 2009),  Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously (1992), and Dictionary of Teleliteracy (1996).

An associate professor of TV and film at Rowan University in New Jersey, Bianculli is also the founder and editor of the online magazine, TVWorthWatching.com.

Pages

1:18pm

Wed July 1, 2015
Television

From SCOTUS To The Confederate Flag, Cable Comedians Keep Tabs On The News

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 1:31 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

1:08pm

Wed June 17, 2015
Television

HBO's New Sunday Lineup Is Full Of Pleasant Surprises

Originally published on Thu June 18, 2015 5:55 pm

In Ballers, Dwayne Johnson (left) plays an ex-Dolphin who is trying to make the transition from pro football player to financial planner for wealthy athletes. His boss is played by Rob Corddry, from The Daily Show.
Jeff Daly HBO

Last weekend, HBO presented the season finales of its three Sunday night prime-time spring series, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Veep. This weekend, HBO unveils its new Sunday night lineup: the all-new second season of True Detective, and two new comedies, Ballers, starring Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as the wrestler called The Rock, and The Brink, starring Tim Robbins and Jack Black.

Read more

3:03pm

Fri May 29, 2015
Television

Are DVD Box Sets A Dying Business? Studios Hope The Answer Is 'Not Yet'

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has a review of several recently released big DVD box sets. He says there are reasons to grab them now while you can.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW")

Read more

4:01pm

Thu May 21, 2015
Television

Letterman Signs Off, With A Heartfelt Guest-Filled Finale

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

2:10pm

Mon May 18, 2015
Television

The 'Mad Men' Ending: A 'Twisted' And 'Perfect' Conclusion

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 5:36 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

1:25pm

Mon May 4, 2015
Television

Last Days Of Dave: Paying Homage To Letterman's Weird And Quirky Legacy

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 10:20 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Read more

2:22pm

Wed April 15, 2015
Television

'Justified' Ends With An Unpredictable, Poetic And Memorable Finale

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. The TV series "Justified" ended its run on the FX cable network last night. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, couldn't wait to talk about it, so here he is.

Read more

3:25pm

Wed April 8, 2015
Television

'Louie' Hits Its Mark While 'The Comedians' Hasn't Yet Fully Succeeded

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

2:55pm

Wed April 1, 2015
Television

New Frank Sinatra Documentary Charts His Professional Ups And Downs

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

2:53pm

Tue March 24, 2015
Television

James Corden Hits Late-Night TV With His Own Skill Set And Mindset

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

2:11pm

Tue March 17, 2015
Television

Forget Binge Watching: Great Television Happens When Networks Pace Shows

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

2:20pm

Wed March 4, 2015
Television

'American Crime' And 'The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' Highlight The TV Revolution

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

2:39pm

Thu February 26, 2015
Television

'Battle Creek' Has The Flavor Of A TV Throwback From An Earlier Age

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 4:28 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Read more

2:07pm

Tue February 10, 2015
Television

New Comedy 'Schitt's Creek' From Canada Is A Reboot Of 'Green Acres'

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

1:52pm

Wed February 4, 2015
Television

'Better Call Saul,' The Prequel To 'Breaking Bad,' Stands On Its Own

Originally published on Fri February 6, 2015 4:35 pm

On Better Call Saul, Bob Odenkirk plays Jimmy McGill, a fast-talking, struggling public defender who decides to remake himself as Saul Goodman, a lawyer specializing in representing unabashed criminals.
Ben Leuner Courtesy of AMC

I'm guessing that the first thing fans of Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad want to know is whether its AMC prequel series, Better Call Saul, premiering Sunday and Monday, is anywhere near as good as the original — which was TV at its very best. And I'm also guessing that people who haven't yet worked their way through Breaking Bad -- and, really, by now, why haven't you? — are wondering whether they can enjoy this new series without having absorbed the old one.

Read more

2:02pm

Tue January 20, 2015
Television

'The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore' Debuts In Slot Vacated By Stephen Colbert

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Read more

2:12pm

Tue January 13, 2015
Television

'Man Seeking Woman' Examines How It Feels To Be Single, Dating And Rejected

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 3:47 pm

On Man Seeking Woman, Jay Baruchel plays Josh, who is getting used to dating again after a breakup.
Michael Gibson FXX

Describing Man Seeking Woman, the new comedy series premiering Wednesday on the FXX cable network, isn't going to be easy.

Read more

1:26pm

Wed January 7, 2015
Television

Matt LeBlanc Has Quietly Made 'Episodes' A Must-See Comedy

Originally published on Wed January 7, 2015 3:14 pm

In Episodes, Matt LeBlanc plays an exaggerated version of himself, a self-centered womanizer who uses celebrity and money to coast through life, much like Larry David does in Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Des Willie Courtesy of Showtime

After the holidays, it didn't take any time at all for TV to get back into the swing of things, at least on Sunday nights. Last Sunday, both The Good Wife on CBS and Downton Abbey on PBS returned with strong new episodes to start the New Year — and ABC premiered an odd little musical comedy series, called Galavant. All those shows are back with fresh episodes this Sunday, and this weekend, they're joined by a handful of returning cable series as well.

Read more

12:34pm

Wed December 24, 2014
Television

Bianculli's Top 10: 2014 Was A 'Good Year For Programming'

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 2:47 pm

Allison Tolman plays Deputy Sheriff Molly Solverson in the FX TV series Fargo. It's a breakout role for the actress who had done only theater and commercials.
Chris Large

Although it wasn't a great year for the shows themselves, it was a good year for programming, says TV critic David Bianculli.

"In terms of what was happening on television, in terms of new and old formats and new, exciting players coming into the mix — [it was] another good year," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'm actually kind of encouraged."

Bianculli reflects on how far TV has come.

Read more

3:15pm

Tue December 2, 2014
Television

Peter Pan's Magic Is In The Pixie Dust

In Peter Pan Live, Christopher Walken plays Captain Hook. David Bianculli says Walken has credibility that should draw people to the live telecast on Thursday.
Virginia Sherwood NBC

NBC devotes all three hours of its prime-time lineup Thursday to a new production of the musical Peter Pan. It will be performed and broadcast live, nearly 60 years after the first live telecast.

Read more

1:25pm

Mon November 17, 2014
Television

Holy Smokes 'Batman,' The '60s Series Is Out On DVD

Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 4:31 pm

Unlike later incarnations of Batman, the '60s version was tongue-in-cheek.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

If you're an impressionable young kid hitting your teens right now, chances are pretty good you've been watching and enjoying some Batman — either Christian Bale in Christopher Nolan's just-completed Dark Knight trilogy, or the prequel series, Gotham, now showing on Fox. If you came of age a generation ago, your Batman of choice was likely to have been the big-screen caped crusader played by Michael Keaton or George Clooney. Or maybe even Val Kilmer.

Read more

2:48pm

Fri October 31, 2014
Television

In The Life Of 'Olive Kitteridge,' It's The Little Things That Add Up

Richard Jenkins plays Henry, Olive's husband.
JoJo Whilden Courtesy of HBO

Olive Kitteridge, a new two-part, four-hour miniseries that runs on HBO Sunday and Monday, sounds like the kind of long-form dramas TV used to make back in the '70s and '80s when miniseries ruled. Like them, Olive Kitteridge covers an entire generation in the lives of its characters — a 25-year span — but otherwise, it couldn't be more different. Most of those sprawling classic miniseries were set against major historical events, and were as much about passionate romance and glamorous costumes as anything else.

Read more

3:16pm

Tue October 21, 2014
Television

Nostalgia, Now Out On DVD, With 'Wonder Years' And 'Pee-wee' Releases

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 6:50 pm

On The Wonder Years, Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) had a crush on his neighbor Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar).
Courtesy of Scoop Marketing

At the moment, we're at yet another pivotal point in the history of home entertainment, which keeps changing with sudden — and major-- tectonic shifts. Just ask Blockbuster Video: Videocassettes for home libraries gave way to DVDs, which now seem to be giving way to streaming video and the cloud.

Read more

2:06pm

Fri October 10, 2014
Television

Inconsistent Memories Are Revisited In 'The Affair,' A Captivating New Drama

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Read more

2:34pm

Fri October 3, 2014
Television

'Homeland' Regains Urgency With Twin Protagonists And Divided Loyalties

Originally published on Fri October 3, 2014 2:53 pm

Claire Danes plays Carrie Mathison on Homeland. Season 4 begins Sunday on Showtime.
Joe Alblas Courtesy of Showtime

Season 4 of the Showtime drama Homeland begins Sunday — and it begins with a very significant change. Claire Danes is back as Carrie Mathison, the gifted but troubled CIA agent with bipolar disorder. But her co-star for the first three seasons, Damian Lewis, who played former prisoner-of-war and suspected traitor Nicholas Brody, is not.

Read more

6:58pm

Fri September 26, 2014
Television

In 'Transparent,' A 70-Year-Old Divorced Dad Comes Out As A Woman

Originally published on Sat September 27, 2014 5:00 pm

Jeffrey Tambor plays Maura on the new drama Transparent on Amazon Prime.
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Thanks to Netflix, many of us are familiar with the concept of new TV series that premiere not on broadcast or cable television, but on a streaming entertainment service. And Netflix isn't the only streaming service getting into the act. Starting Friday, Amazon Prime subscribers have access to the entire first season of a new series called Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor.

Read more

4:55pm

Thu September 18, 2014
Television

'Madame Secretary' Pales In Comparison To 'The Good Wife'

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 5:39 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Read more

1:38pm

Wed September 10, 2014
Television

3 Roosevelts Come Alive In PBS Documentary, Ken Burns' Best Yet

Originally published on Wed September 10, 2014 3:28 pm

In this undated photo, Theodore Roosevelt waves to a crowd.
Library of Congress

Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his most resonant and famous line during his presidential inauguration speech of 1933: "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It was resonant because he was being defiant, and optimistic, in the face of the Great Depression — and it was famous because it was broadcast live, to the entire nation, on the relatively new medium of radio.

Read more

4:00pm

Thu September 4, 2014
Television

In 'The Chair,' Two Filmmakers Make Movies From The Same Script

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 11:18 pm

One of the competitors on The Chair is Anna Martemucci, a graduate of New York University film school who has written and acted before, but never directed.
Helena Lukas Martemucci 2014 Chair One Productions

Here's where I stand on so-called reality TV. All those shows that are built around people misbehaving to get attention and claw for fame — in other words, all those Real Housewives shows, and every Big Brother and any show like it — I have absolutely no use for.

Read more

2:48pm

Wed August 13, 2014
Television

Case Closed: Agatha Christie's Detective Poirot Solves His Last TV Mystery

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 3:24 pm

David Suchet plays Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie's Poirot. The last season premiers Aug. 25 on Acorn TV.
Courtesy of Acorn TV/ITV

Agatha Christie published her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, in 1920. It featured fussy Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, who proved the most popular of all her mystery-solving characters. Hercule made his final appearance in 1975, in the novel Curtain — and this month, nearly a century after he first appeared in print, the mystery series completes its lengthy run as a TV series, still starring David Suchet in the title role.

Read more

Pages